Ghost Cats, Ghost Dogs, and Visitations From Beyond

Has a ghost dog or ghost cat visited you? They have blessed me that way more than once, but never when I wish for it and always unexpectedly. Far from scary, the visitation from beyond brought me great comfort. I know my furry wonders live on–somewhere, somehow, and that I’ll see them again. It wouldn’t be heaven without them. In fact, one of my Pet Peeves radio programs discussed whether pets go to heaven.

ghost dog

Bravo appeared to me after his death.

When Bravo-Dawg died March 2021, our hearts ached. We second-guessed every decision made during his cancer journey. This gentle giant who never had a bad day (even in the aftermath of amputation), always made us smile during awful times. Our three-year-old baby-dog fought and defeated osteosarcoma, so how could another cancer take him from us? Not our Bravo!

The day after his death, when his slurpy-kiss across my face woke me, I reflexively reached out my hand to smooth his sweet face. He leaned against my palm. Warm. Real. His tail thumped and shook the bed. He had all four legs, and a happy satisfied grin–and then he disappeared. I like to think he knew I needed his reassurance.

I cherish his effort to once again comfort us. What do you think? Does pet death mean the end or will they come back to comfort us?

ghost cat

Seren became increasingly frail and confused. I wonder if that’s why she never visited after her passing.

Cats and Ghosts

Cats have long been thought to have a link with the “other world” or even to have feline ESP. In fact, popular urban legends hold that cats see ghosts—and their behavior certainly seems to support that notion. My cat Seren often plays “track the spook” games, maybe just to mess with my head. You’ll understand more when you read the last paragraph.

We built our house 25 years ago but maybe the site used to be an ancient burial ground that remains haunted by spirits of the departed. That would explain Seren-Kitty’s behavior when she used to fix her gaze on “something” and follow the motion up the wall, around the ceiling, and out the door. *shiver*

It’s not just my own vivid imagination, either. A letter to the “Occult Review” magazine of April 1924 tells of a ghost that appeared in a chair, also apparent to the humans present. A cat in the room seemed to recognize the spirit and immediately leaped into the spirit’s lap—and was dismayed when the insubstantial lap would not hold it. The popular movie Ghost featured a cat able to see the spirit of the murdered victim, played by actor Patrick Swayze.

ghost

Karma knew his best friend would die long before we did.

Can Cats Sense Death?

There also are many stories of cats wailing at the exact instant of a beloved owner’s death, even when separated by miles. How do the cats know? Do they “see” the spirit, or feel the psychic change at the sudden absence of their special human?

Cats (and dogs) have the physical ability to see certain wavelengths and color spectrums that people cannot. Perhaps this “remnant” of the dearly departed remains behind—or in fact the spirit portion remains visible for felines as well as ultrasonic sound communication.

Oscar the cat, a resident of Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre in Providence, Rhode Island, had an uncanny ability to predict which patient will soon die. Adopted as a kitten, he remained standoffish as an adult cat—until an individual neared the end of life. Then he’d scratch at the door and demand to be in the room, hop up on the bed beside the patient to sit vigil with them until they die.

Oscar’s prediction rate has been better than the nurses or physicians who care for the residents, who suffer with severe dementia. Experts speculate the dying simply smell different, and that alerts Oscar. Yet he is the only one of several resident cats that seems to care. Relatives have said they feel comforted Oscar spends time with their loved ones when they can’t be there.

ghost cats ghost dogs

Magical-Dawg died in September, and Seren-Kitty died in December. I don’t recall any visitation from either of them. Perhaps they’re too busy continuing to pester each other.

Do Cats Haunt Us? Will Pets Visit Us After Death?

When cats die, owners recount experiences of the kitty returning to comfort remaining pet friends and people that they’re okay. Sometimes the delicate paw-print tracks of never seen mourning “ghost cats” appear where the owner can find them. Very often one can feel the jarring “thump” of the ghost pet leaping onto the bed at night, snuggling across your ankles, or being seen out of the corner of your eyes.

When my first dog died, a day later I felt him jump up on the bed. He suffered from hip dysplasia and couldn’t jump while alive, so I knew he’d become whole in his new afterlife.

These invisible visitors may still cheek rub and head butt ankles, so that people can feel the brush of fur against their skin. Wishful thinking? Perhaps the mourning human so desperately wants one last contact that imagination takes over.

What About Ghost Pets Proof?

But what of the other pets who also detect the invisible cat’s or chase a transparent cat as she runs through a room only to disappear into a wall? Sometimes there’s also photographic proof that points to a kitty haunting a residence or person.

One early famous example is a 1925 family portrait taken by Major Allistone in Clarens, Switzerland that documented a woman restraining an infant from climbing out of a baby carriage, with an older boy standing in front holding a stuffed bunny in his left hand. But in the boy’s right hand appears the face of a white kitten—except that white kitten had died several weeks earlier.

More recent examples abound and can be including pictures and videos posted on the Internet. For example, one family admired and took pictures of a neighbor’s flowers and captured the image of a cat in the window—only the family doesn’t have a cat, so just who was the ghostly feline and (perhaps more importantly) did the cat allow him/herself to be photographed?

Do Spirit Cats Return?

On October 29, 1993 at 8:30 p.m. my first beloved dog passed away at age 12 years 5 months. At the time we lived in a tiny apartment and had to place his body outside in the entryway, to await burial the next morning. Shortly thereafter, we heard a strangely haunting sound at the door.

I found a cat crouching over my poor dog’s body, muttering and crying. The cat was a stranger, one I’d never seen before or since. I like to think that this eerie cat visitor arrived to pay feline respects at his passing. He’d always loved cats. It certainly couldn’t be my beloved dog’s spirit being hosted within this feline visitor. Or could it?

I never saw the cat again, although I heard the yowls each year on October 29th at about 8:30 p.m. Maybe I imagined it? All I know is the spectral cat cries stopped after my Seren-kitty adopted us.

Have you ever had a “visit” from a dearly departed pet? Have your cats (or dogs) “detected” an otherworldly presence? What did they do? If you had the chance to see a pet ghost, would you want to? Have you ever visited certain locations (or even people) that you’re sure had an animal ghost in residence? Please share!

Read these tips to prepare for your pet in case you pass away before they do.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pets Car Ride Safe Travel with Pet Safety Harnesses

Pets car ride safe travel provides vital protection for dogs and cats. This post, originally written several years ago, needed an update about pet car ride safety. With Magical-Dawg, we used a pet gate to keep him safely in the back seat, and later a halter that buckled into the seatbelt. And because he suffered from car sickness, we also used a great seat cover to protect the car seat. Learn tips for teaching dogs to love car rides here.

Bravo never cared much for car rides. At 120+ pounds, we couldn’t keep him safely contained, so thankfully, he rested nicely on the Kurgo seat cover we still use (see below). These days, I have a smaller safety harness for Shadow-Pup that secures with the seat belt for safe rides.pet car safety

Why Pets Car Ride Safe Travel Matters?

After the long “stay-cation” because of the pandemic, many folks now choose road trips and perhaps take their dog for a car ride as well. So I’m revisiting the subject of pets car ride safe travels.

Pets loose in cars can interfere with the driver, cause distractions and potentially cause accidents. During an accident, they may turn into furry projectiles that injure other human passengers as well as themselves. During accidents, pets get seriously injured, paralyzed, lost, or killed.

pet car safety

Dogs love to ride!

Currently, the United States has no standards or any tests at all for pet travel products, yet many manufacturers advertise claims of successful testing. Distraction protection differs from crash protection. Some pet products companies take this responsibility seriously.

pet car safety

Shadow-Pup wears a harness that’s attached to the seat belt. That keeps him out of the driver’s way, and protects him from sudden stops (or accidents!).

Crash Tests & Pet Car Safety

A few years ago I met Linsey Wolko, founder and CEO of the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) at the BlogPaws event, and later interviewed her after Subaru partnered with them in 2013 to study the effectiveness of pet safety harnesses. There were mixed results among some of the most popular pet products on the market touted to provide pet car safety. NOTE: they used no living dogs in these tests, they conducted all with “doggy test dummies.”

The study chose eleven commonly available dog harness products to test that came in Small, Medium and Large sizes and advertised the product as tested for crash protection. Stuffed dogs served as the test dummies in the three size ranges, which a small 25-pound terrier conformation, a medium 45-pound Border Collie and a large 75-pound Golden Retriever, chosen to best mirror the conformation and weight of living dogs.

MGA Research Corporation, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) contracted test facility in Virginia, performed independent, third party testing of the harness products. A minimum standard of performance was first tested, and the seven dog harnesses that passed went on to the “crash” phase of the test with the stuff dog dummies.

How the Pet Crash Tests Worked

The tests were created to result in a worst-case potential for injury. For instance, positioning the test dog dummy in a sit position increased the rotation/force in the crash. “The primary goal was to see if we can keep the dog on the seat,” says Wolko.

The “crash test” considers the potential “launch” of the dog from his perch on the car seat, rotation force, as well as how well (or not) the harness prevents doggy injury. Some tests not only resulted in catastrophic failure of fasteners and caused severe harness deformation/stitching failure, but also launched the test-dummy dog, stripped off the harness, or hung/strangled the test dummy. Shedding of the harness/leash also leaves the dog open to escape/becoming lost immediately after the accident.

Only ONE of the eleven company’s products passed the test with a five-paws-up ranking. See the results of the tests here. The Sleepypod ClickIt Utility Harness received Top Performer of those products tested. It controlled both launch and rotation of the test dummy dog in all three Small, Medium and Large product sizes. Note: Sleepypod also makes safety-tested carriers for cats and small pets.

pet car safety

Image courtesy of Kurgo

I am not being compensated for writing this post. Kurgo provided me with a free harness and seat cover in exchange for an honest review. Kurgo is not responsible for the content of this article.

What About Pet Car Safety for Big Dogs? 

I wanted to find a safety harness for Magic–but the Sleepypod product didn’t come in a large enough size. The one that seemed the best fit, Kurgo harness, initially failed the 2013 test, but the company was one of several that improved the design and enhanced quality control. I accepted a free Kurgo harness to review.

The materials and workmanship impressed me. The company really takes safety seriously. Unlike some other products, this isn’t simply a converted walking harness. Kurgo uses the same type of engineering design used by rock climbers who rely on buckles and tethers to keep them safe.

That said, because it has a ring on the front chest plate, the Kurgo Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Harness works like a no-pull harness and turns your pup around if he does try to tug you along. For the all-important fit, you simply measure the dog’s neck and chest girth.

trufit-s.new-04

Image courtesy of Kurgo.

Fit for a Jumbo-size Magical- or Bravo-Dawg

I enjoyed having five places to adjust fit on Magic. However, the neck band at its smallest girth still ran loose on my GSD, but the company offers instructions how to make a DIY adjustment that worked like a charm. It’s also machine washable–kewl! Price ranges according to size, starting at $22 for the little guys and going up to $32 for the largest harness.

The chest pad reduces stress on the trachea and sternum and in the case of dangerous crashes, this spreads the force across the dog’s chest to reduce injury due to localized impact. The harness comes with a carabiner to attach the harness to your car seatbelt system. There’s also a 10-inch dog seat belt tether to allow more range of movement. Bravo inherited the harness and it also fit him (with adjustments).

pet car safety

Magic was a car-riding maniac. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

How Pet Car Safety Crash Tests Worked

The Kurgo Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and its steel Nesting Buckles has been tested in both tensile strength, static line test, and finally in a crash test using a sled test (see video, below).

Dog Harness Crash test videos show a 50-lb dog (dummy) traveling at 30 miles per hour. They conducted and recorded the tests at the University of Michigan, an accredited National Highway and Transportation Administration lab, using Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213 for child restraint systems.

Magic weighs nearly 90 pounds so I wouldn’t expect the test dog at this weight to be the same result. And nope, I NEVER had a crash with Magic (or Bravo) in the car. However, it’s the best option I’ve found for big dogs while on the road.

What About Pet Travel Safety for Cats?

For pet owners of smaller cats and dogs, the absolutely best safety tip I can offer is to secure your small pet inside a carrier and seat belt the carrier into the back seat. Wolko recommends placing the carrier on the floor in the back seat, which works well for the smallest carriers.

As with harnesses, there are no required tests or standards that define “safe pet carriers.” Plastic can shatter, metal can buckle, so conduct due diligence in choosing your carrier. Remember that air bags that go off have enough power to crush and severely injure or kill a small pet.

For big dogs like my Magical-Dawg that won’t fit in a carrier, I have him secured behind a dog gate so he doesn’t try to drive. Now I can also secure him with his Kurgo harness. That keeps him out of my hair and from trying to push the gas pedal, too.

pet car safety

Images courtesy of CPS

Center for Pet Safety Studies: Update

“After our findings in 2013 [on harness safety], we were eager to continue working to bring accountability to the pet products industry, while highlighting the products that will help improve safety for the entire family during their travels together,” said Lindsey Wolko, Founder and CEO of Center for Pet Safety.

The 2015 Crate and Carrier Crashworthiness Studies evaluated leading crates and carriers advertised as crash tested and/or recommended for a vehicle. They used no live animals during these tests. Instead, the tests employed specially designed crash test fake dogs that approximated the size and weight of real dogs.
pet car safety testMany manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested, safe and even protective for your pet, but today there are no substantiating tests or standards in the U.S. The data gathered from these studies will assist CPS in formulating crate and carrier testing and performance standards. Learn to train pets to accept crates in this blog post. They evaluated four crates and eight carriers, and on July 24, 2015 CPS announced that three top products emerged in the tests:CPS-Subaru-5-300x200

Winners Of the Tests

TOP CRATE: Gunner Kennels G1 Intermediate with 8’ Tie Down Straps

TOP CARRIERS: PetEgo Forma Frame Jet Set Carrier with ISOFIX-Latch Connection and Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed with PPRS Handilock

The full product performance report studies can be found at CenterforPetSafety.org. You can also now look for the logo (on the left) for products that have been certified safe by the Center for Pet Safety.

Kurgo Seat Cover

I am not being compensated for writing this post. Kurgo provided me with a free seat cover in exchange for an honest review. Kurgo is not responsible for the content of this article. Image courtesy of Kurgo.

Seat Cover to Protect Cars

I received the Universal Fit Kurgo Bench Seat Cover for my Toyota Camry, list price $45. My first impressions were the material is soil resistant canvas with a plastic backing to make it waterproof. It comes in either charcoal or tan, and looks very nice.

There’s a Velcro-close pocket in the seat back and front bottom of the seat, supposedly for doggy storage items. There also are Velcro openings for seatbelts to come through, important when using the Kurgo Harness or another crash-tested product to keep your pet safe. It’s recommended to hand wash with cold water and mild detergent or on “gentle” with front load washing machines, and to hang dry.

This is a great product for keeping hair, mud, or other bodily insults like diarrhea or vomit from car sick dogs off the car upholstery. Because it is a “universal” size, for my car the fit is loose and slides around a bit. There are elastic tie-downs for each bottom/side of the seat, and elastic loops to hook over each headrest. Essentially, the cover hangs from the headrests and drapes over the seat. An exuberant pooch could get it scrunched up.

That said, for cars with back seats that fold down, the additional back-of-seat attachment would augment security. The Kurgo Bench Seat Cover is a solid and quality option for toting your dog around. Be cognizant of size differences and read the reviews on the site, since different car “benches” may not fit as well as others.

Do you use a harness, crate or carrier in your car when traveling with your pets? What about dealing with the mess, do you have a seat cover? How often do you take your cats and dogs for car rides? Shadow-Pup channels his Magical-Dawg predecessor and loves car rides. How about your pets? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Puppy Proofing Tips: How to Keep Puppies Safe

Last summer, about the same time as Bravo’s cancer diagnosis, a stray puppy showed up. Shadow answered prayers we didn’t know we made. Sometimes God answers prayers in advance. So we once again needed to puppy proof the house.

puppy proofWhen we lost our 11-year-old German shepherd Magical-Dawg and 22-year-old Seren-Kitty within three months of each other, the sadness ambushed our emotions for weeks and months. It also haunted Karma-Kat, and he slept with Magic’s collar for a week between bouts of crying, increased clawing and other attention-seeking stressful behavior.

We wanted another pet, and my husband specifically wanted a puppy. After more than a decade with only adult pets, we took pains to prepare for the arrival and integration of our Bullmastiff baby dog. We puppy proofed the house. But Shadow took us by surprise. We repeated most of the same puppy proofing steps from when Bravo-Dawg arrived. That kept everyone’s stress levels low, and the whole family happy and safe. Here’s what we did for Bravo, Karma, and most recently, Shadow-Pup.

puppy proofing3 TOP PUPPY PROOFING STRESS BUSTERS

PUPPY PROOF DOG TERRITORY, CAT TERRITORY

Bravo arrived weighing 39 pounds at 12 weeks of age. He’d spent all his life outside with seven adult dogs (including his mother), seven siblings, and two cats. They’d already taught him pretty good dog and cat manners, thank goodness, but we still needed to control Bravo’s territory.

By the time Shadow showed up, Bravo weighed 123 pounds and adored Karma-Kat (the feeling was mutual). Thankfully, but the cat and Bravo enjoyed other dogs, and willingly put up with puppy antics. We have no history of Shadow’s experience, but he had excellent manners toward Bravo, and showed proper puppy deference. He wasn’t as polite to Karma, though.

introduce dogs to catsPet gates in the kitchen created a “puppy central” home base for Shadow. The gates also have smaller “cat doors” in the barrier’s bottom so that Karma continued to have access to the area. For safety, we never leave them unsupervised.

Slate floor in the kitchen proved easier to clean after the inevitable puppy accidents.

Private dining & sleeping in the large crate gives Shadow privacy to eat away from thieving cat paws and Bravo distractions. It also gave the other pets a respite from puppy antics.

The cat continues to have free access to the rest of the house, and especially the master bath where he’s fed on the counter out of reach of thieving dogs. We also locate Karma’s litter box in the bathroom for kitty privacy.

Shadow blessed Bravo with happiest of times during his last months with us.

In the evenings, when all eyes can watch the pets, we spend time together in the living room. Using a strap barrier product (The Door Buddy) gives Karma-Kat access through the bedroom door but prevents Shadow from entering.

Finally, the three cat trees provided for Karma give him elevated territory out of puppy nose-poke range. He can easily escape to safety, if need be, and lounge without stress in the same room as a rowdy dog baby.

TOOTHY TARGETS: PUPPY PROOF PUPPY CHEWING

Puppies chew. It’s in the puppy bill of rights. When puppy proofing, anything at puppy tooth level becomes a potential target. I recommend investing in knee pads and crawling around your house to get a puppy-eye-view of danger zones. Since living with dogs and cats for so long (cats chew, too!), most of our dangerous items were already out of harm’s way.

We rolled up door mats and stored them away, as well as large accent pillows. Otherwise, Shadow turned them into chew toys. We stowed any storage boxes behind closed doors. Afte

Dog dental treats benefit tooth health

Magic as puppy chewing dental treat.

r we learned Bravo could reach countertops and shred mail, we found a new place to store bills. Even Shadow-Pup learned to reach dish towels left too close to the edge of countertops.

We relegated cat toys to Karma’s domain to avoid dogs eating catnip mice or sparkle balls. My husband’s socks proved irresistible, and despite our best efforts, Bravo ate (and urped up) whole socks more than once. Shadow doesn’t eat them but will gnaw holes. Having a puppy turns one into a better housekeeper–or else!

PUPPY PROOF DOG AND CAT TOYS

We provide Shadow with lots of toys helps to keep him excited and happily focused on legal targets.  He’s now 16 months old and 26 pounds, and his toy preference has changed along the way. After Bravo passed away (nine months after his diagnosis), Shadow-Pup inherited many of his favorites.

Small soft plushies he snuggled a month ago now end up gutted with stuffing all over the floor. These days, he prefers more rigid chewies like pig snouts and stuffed hooves. We provide also him with lots of puzzle toys that offer treats when he “wins” the game. His favorite is the Kong Wobbler, which I use to feed him one of his meals. This toy has tooth marks from Magic, Bravo, and now Shadow, making it extra special.

A new puppy means turns people into vigilant caretakers. Shadow finds new toys everywhere, so bathroom doors now stay latched to prevent toilet paper theft, toilet lids stay lowered to prevent bob-the-toy games, and books or other paper get stored on high or behind solid doors. Predicting problems helps prevent – and reduce – potential stress, so that we can concentrate on the tail-wagging smiles Shadow brings.

For more information on pet proofing for holidays, check out this blog post.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Why Do Cats Hate Vacations? Does My Cat Hate Me for Leaving?

You’ve had the most wonderful vacation ever, and can’t wait to get home to the fur kids. Maybe you left them in the care of a pet sitter or boarding facility. You felt your cat wouldn’t enjoy vacationing with you (learn more about that here).

But what if your cat hates vacations? Will your cat hate you for leaving? When you return, your cat’s vacation angst makes her want nothing to do with you. She even *gasp* pees and poops outside the box to get back at you. It’s obvious Kitty is mad you abandoned her.

why does my cat hate vacations

Cats Often Act Out During or After Your Vacation

Or is it? Kitty vacation angst can prompt a variety of behavior complaints. They have nothing to do with anger or cat aggression, and everything to do with cat stress. While a trip away from home can be fun and relaxing for people, all your cat knows is her favorite person DISAPPEARS, and her familiar routine disrupted.

For some cats, that leads to separation behaviors that a cat sitter might notice while you’re gone. Others act out once you come back home. What’s going on?

Cats Hate Vacations that Change Routine

Cats love routine so much that any change can put sensitive cats into a tizzy. When you leave them behind, it’s not just your absence that puts a kink in their tail. Perhaps a stranger visits to feed them, tries to pet or play they don’t want, and changes feeding times or other favorite events. Boarding your cat outside the home means they must adjust to an entirely new environment, too. That means scary smells and sounds, maybe even strange dogs or other cats.

Even well-cats require five days to two weeks to accept a new-to-them routine. Sensitive cats can take longer. Then, when your cat finally becomes accustomed to the cat sitter routine, you return from vacation—and go back to the original routine. If that’s not enough, you smell different, like a stranger. Cats identify friendly people because we smell like the cat’s cheek-rub markings that label us as family. So the combination of routine disruption and funny smells prompt some cats to hide, become defensive, or offer other unwanted behaviors.

These include hiding, and perhaps even urinating or defecating inappropriately, especially in places important to the cat, like your bed. After all, where you sleep smells the most like the best friend she misses.

why cats hate vacations

When you return from vacation, you no longer “smell” right–so some cats may not recognize you without their own cheek-rub marks on your ankles.

Decreasing Vacation Stress in Cats

When Kitty stays home while you’re on vacation, introduce your pet sitter well in advance. Make these meetings happy times with favorite games and treats, so your cat already knows and likes the care giver. If your cat sitter understands cats, he or she knows to give Kitty space, rather than forcing unwanted attention which can increase fear and stress in sensitive cats. Work together as much as possible to keep routine close to normal.

If you know what will change while gone, make some changes several days before you leave. That transitions the change less abruptly for your cat.

Give your cat a comfort-scented item that smells like you, such as a pair of socks you’ve worn but not washed. Some cats like hearing your voice, so a phone call or recorded message might be an option. Check in advance, though, to be sure this doesn’t make your cat upset.

You can also speed up your cat’s recognition when you return with the sock trick. Each family member your cat loves should choose a clean pair of socks, and rub-rub-rub them over the cat (especially her cheek area). Seal the socks in separate plastic baggies and save them for your homecoming. When you return from vacation, slip on the cat-scented socks so that you once again carry the cat’s signature identification that “you are family.” That can help speed up your cat’s willingness to welcome you home.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Food Obsessed Pets and Why Pets Gobble Food

Do your pets gobble food? Are they pushy around the food bowl? Food aggression in cats (rare) and dogs (more common) can be a problem. But food obsessed pets happen for a variety of reasons.

pets gobble food

Pet Eating Behaviors Vary

When Karma-Kat showed up on our back patio, the eight-month-old kitten had been on his own for some time. Starved for attention, and for food, he quickly made himself at home. He ate anything and everything. Karma chewed through the dog food bag to munch canine kibble and practiced snatch-and-grab attacks to gobble food from our dinner plates.

Our last dog, Magic the German Shepherd, had a healthy appetite, but declined to gobble. Bravo-Dawg often scarfed-and-barfed in quick succession. Magical-Pup takes turns snubbing the bowl and gobbling his food.

Pets are individuals of course, but I wondered why some pets practice gluttony while others eat with more discriminating palates. For answers, I reached out to Dr. Dottie LaFlamme, DVM, PhD, DACVN, +/- Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist with the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

fat pets

Crash diets with fat cats can lead to deadly fatty liver disease.

Why Dogs & Cats Gobble Their Food

“Gobbling of food seems to be a trait carried over from wolves,” says Dr. Laflamme. “Wolves or other canids in packs are in competition for access to a kill, so grab what they can when they can.” Learn more about how dogs eat in this post.

In domestic dogs, she says speed of eating seems to be a breed-specific characteristic. Certain breeds of dogs swallow their food in a gulp or two, while others prefer to nibble or graze. “Beagles and Labrador Retrievers are among those breeds known to be gobblers,” she says. Learn about preventing obesity in this post.

Besides breed, considerable individual variation in eating habits develops in dogs. “This may be related to early experiences, and feeding management, and competition (real or perceived) for food bowl access. Also environmental factors including those that may leave a dog more or less relaxed while eating. And availability of food.”

A specific breed of a cat doesn’t appear to play a role in feline gobblers. Refer to this post on how cats eat.  Dr. Laflamme says there are no scientific studies to identify the reasons behind “Garfield” type cats. But she speculates there may be several reasons, alone or in combination, for this behavior in both cats and dogs.

Those starved as strays may be more food focused, she says. Also, young pets that are meal-fed (rather than ad libitum feeding) during early development may be more likely to be rapid eaters. “This is based on a limited number of animals and personal observations,” she cautions, “but it also fits your Karma-Kat situation.”

Cats evolved as solitary hunters and eaters. It’s hard to share a single mouse, after all. That means when cats must share food bowls, eat side by side with other felines, or compete with a bully-cat (or dog), they may resort to gulping down food quickly or risk getting nothing at all.

Great Dane and bloat

Managing meals can reduce the risk of canine bloat in Great Danes and other dogs.

Are There Risks Associated With Food Gobbling?

For cats, gorging can lead to obesity, or nutritional upset if they habitually vomit. Some veterinarians describe stressed cat eating as “scarf-and-barf.” In other words, eating too quickly from stress-related causes can result in the cat’s food coming back up just as quickly. That’s not good for your carpet, your blood pressure, or your cats.

But for otherwise healthy dogs, gulping food isn’t necessarily a bad thing, says Dr. Laflamme. Eating quickly can save time for owners of multiple dogs, when you can control the amount each dog eats, she says. “Dogs can easily consume all their food in just a few minutes, so can be quickly fed once or twice daily. Since this is a natural pattern for dogs, it may not be of any concern.”

However, part of the natural pattern in wolves and pack animals is to engorge with rapid feeding, then regurgitate and re-consume the food while they are away from the frenzy. “Most pet owners are less keen on this habit, despite it being natural,” says Dr. Laflamme.

We have linked one health concern with rapid eating, says Dr. Laflamme. Gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat, particularly affects large breed dogs, especially deep-chested dogs.

no bowl feeding system

Foraging toys like the No Bowl feeding system, work well for cats.

How Can Owners Slow Pet Food Gobbling?

There are a variety of ways to help dogs and cats eat more slowly. It comes down to managing mealtime. Dr. Laflamme offered these suggestions.

  • Add water to the food to increase the food volume
  • Feed food in larger kibble or chunk sizes so pets must chew rather than gulp
  • Use an automatic feeding device that opens on a scheduled timer to access a portion of the daily ration. That can divide a single meal into multiple small meals.
  • Place one or more non-swallowable balls, large stones, or heavy chain into the feeding bowl so dogs must pick around obstacles to find the kibbles.
  • Use puzzle feeders designed for the purpose. Kibbles placed inside release a few at a time during paw-rolling, nose-nudging play. You can make homemade versions with plastic water bottles or similar.
  • For cats gobbling out of competition or stress, consider feeding them separately.
  • Hiding the puzzle toys for cats to “hunt” slows down gulping.
  • “Licky mats” smeared with wet canned food also slow the consumption.

So what have I missed? Do you live with food obsessed pets? How do you manage meal times? Do tell!

This post first appeared in a different form on the FearFreeHappyHomes.com site.

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